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  CNN    Early Start    News/Business. John Berman, Zoraida Sambolin.  
   The latest breaking news and trending stories. New.  

    April 18, 2013
    2:00 - 4:00am PDT  

this is cnn breaking news. >> on it while you were sleeping, this massive explosion
tearing through a fertilizer plant in the town of west, texas. dozens may be dead. hundreds are definitely injured. the blast leveling an apartment complex and badly damaging a nearby nursing home. >> i walked to the blast area. i searched some houses earlier tonight. massive. just like iraq. just like the murray building in oklahoma city. >> the fire may be out but the threat is far from over because a potentially deadly gas could be lingering in the air and officials fear it may be pushed further into community by shifting winds. in boston, a possible break in the marathon bombing. investigators focusing on two possible suspects who were seen near the finish line moments before the blasts. >> this morning we're waiting for test results to see if the
letters were laced with ricin. a. >> i'm john berman, live in boston. >> we begin in the small town of west, texas, about 20 miles west of waco. it resembles a war zone this morning. it was rocked overnight by a chemical explosion and a fire at fertilizer plant. that blast captured on video. just incredible. dozens of homes or buildings were leveled or damaged. the town's mayor telling cnn what that explosion felt like. >> i have never seen an explosion like that. a ball of fire went up. looked like a nuclear bomb went off. big old mushroom cloud. >> about half the population of west, texas, some 1400 people, were evacuated. officials say there are two
confirmed fatalities. that number could rise throughout the day. more than 150 people are being treated right now at area hospitals. officials are going door to door. they are searching for survivors this morning. >> we are all over this story for you this morning with live team coverage. it's a very fluid situation on the ground there. that's where we find cnn's martin savidge in west, texas, for us. good morning, martin. what's the latest? >> reporter: good morning, john. yeah, this is the command post we're standing at. it normally is a cattle auction site. it's far from normal here in this community. this town has had its heart ripped out as a result of that massive explosion that occurred yesterday evening. let's be clear, this is still an ongoing operation. there are still threats, still dangers, still rescues and evacuations that are taking place. this town may be small, but the impact has been huge.
stunning video. the west fertilizer plant in the small town of west, texas, exploded. the blast and the massive fire followed leaving dozens of homes and buildings destroyed. the town's mayor telling cnn what it felt like. >> i've never experienced an explosion like that. it was a ball of fire. went up like a nuclear bomb went off. big old mushroom cloud. >> reporter: the blast was so strong, it registered as a magnitude 2.1 earthquake. >> explosion on the horizon. >> a bomb just went off inside here. it's pretty bad. >> reporter: half of the town's 2600 residents were forced to evacuate. officials concerned about potentially deadly gas fumes and a second fertilizer tank that could also explode. people living near the plant feared for their lives. >> when it exploded, we all just hit the ground and i was trying
to cover up my daughter because there was a lot of debris flying. and then after that, it was just basically search and rescue. >> reporter: the smoldering fire and fumes prevented rescue workers from getting near the plant. officials say the blast area resembles a war zone. >> massive. just like iraq. just like the murray building in oklahoma city. same anhydrous ammonia exploded so you can imagine what kind of damage we're looking at there. >> reporter: john, we have talked to a number of survivors that have gathered here at the command center. they are shell shocked. they have dazed look on their face. they can't soak it all in, what has happened to their community and what has changed in their lives. the next concern is a very strong line of weather that's about to strike. the next concern is how that might impact rescue operations,
who could be impacted by the fumes and people that are stuck inside, and weather is the last thing they need at this point, john. >> you can say that again, martin. any sense of how close rescuers and officials can get to the blast and the houses and the nursing home nearby? >> reporter: well, they have been, actually, in the process of getting into the nursing home and getting into some of the nearby homes, the apartment buildings, when they spotted the fire. evacuation was the first thing they had to be done, even before knocking out flames. they were in the process of doing that when the blast went off. you have two compounded effects there. those who were first responders took the brunt of it, literally, and on top of that, those evacuates were hit by debris. so, it came at a terrible time. and right now they're still adding up the costs. the numbers that have been talked about are into fatalities, i'm not going to get into guessing, they're worried,
and they're worried the numbers are going to go high. it's not just civilians but also the emergency responders they believe are among the casualties. john. >> there will be no certainty until daylight when they can actually get in there and see for themselves. martin savidge for us in west, texas, thanks much. >> joining us on the phone, cnn's george howell near hillcrest medical center in waco, texas, about 18, 19 miles from the site of this explosion. what can you tell us about how many of the injured have been taken there and what sorts of injuries they're seeing at this hour? >> reporter: when we talk about these numbers, we understand from george smith, emergency manager, that at least two may be dead in this case. we know a total of 166 patients. hillcrest hospital, 94 patients last count were taken to that hospital. providence hospital with 58 patients. and john & white, the trauma
center, four patients taken there. at these hospitals, a lot of injuries. we're seeing everything from scrapes and bruises, broken bones, respiratory issues from this anhydrous ammonia that officials are very concerned about, but no deaths have been reported at these hospitals. the big concern tonight, going into daylight hours, is a storm system moving through. it will hamper that search and rescue operation, but fire officials say that the death toll here could rise as high as 70. so, you know, that's what they're looking into right now. >> we know these early reports can be very difficult to pin down simply because they're trying to skeer the scene. we know there was a fire first, then an explosion. anhydrous ammonia, something used prolifically in the agriculture industry. that's ag country where you are right now, cattle auctions, farming. this is something that's a way of life for so many ag communities but also very dangerous and people know that. what do we know about first
responders? what do we know about people who are trying to help who have been hurt in the process? >> reporter: well, again, we're watching the weather situation change slowly but surely. heavy rain, winds. the wind we saw in oklahoma just a few hours ago when we were covering storms there. it's a nasty system coming through this area. and that will cause a real problem as this search and rescue conditions. keep in mind, these officials, their first priority is and has been looking for survivors, looking for victims and looking for the potential dead. you know, that's their first objective right now. they're also keeping a close eye on that. >> george howell, thank you so much. a warning, it's still ten hours since the explosion but very difficult to pinpoint the numbers and just the breadth of this disaster there in the little town of west, texas. >> and also very dangerous conditions as people are trying to head in that direction to help. so, be warned, to be very
careful and not head in that direction. the medical director of west, texas, george smith, telling us an incredible story of what he did and what he saw. >> we got a report of a fire at fertilizer plant. we sent the ems unit, we always do to help back the firemen up. i saw how bad it was so i went to the nursing home. i'm the medical director for the nursing home. i went over to the station closest to where the fire was and called all personnel to me there that was in the building and said, get people evacuated to the far side of the building. luckily we had most everybody out then. but then there was just a major, major explosion. the windows came in on me. the roof came in on me. the ceiling came in. i worked my way out to go get some more help. of course, we lost all communication because the power went out. the ambulance station is badly damaged.
the whole 1500 block of still meadow, which is the closest street to it. my son lives there. luckily he was on the second floor when he fell down, it would have fallen on him. that whole street is gone. >> reporter: where were you at when -- >> i was in the nursing home, which is just about -- >> reporter: what is this like? explain, how are you feeling right this second. >> exhausted. trying to get everybody where they need to, trying to do my job. i can't communicate with anybody. we didn't have cell service. finally got enough information and went to the helicopter because they have different kind of radio systems to notify mclellan county disaster to get us all the ambulances, all the helicopters, everything they could here. we have a lot of people still trapped in houses. that's dangerous materials, hazardous material, we can't get to them right now. >> reporter: have you ever seen or been in anything like this? >> no.
i was with katrina after with medical systems, people marks but it's just overwhelming to us. we're a town of 2400. we have three ambulances. and there are literally hundreds of people hurt. i know -- don't -- i haven't been there but i'm very worried that my ambulance that was on scene, those personnel are probably deceased. i think some of the firemen may be deceased. because i was inside a building quite away from it. i know most of the houses there are in bad shape. our ambulance building is destroyed. >> reporter: what would you compare this to? >> atom bomb -- not a -- but a bomb. >> reporter: what's your emotional status right now? >> overwhelmed. trying to do the best i can. of course they're trying to sit me down because i'm bleeding. i have a job to do.
there are people hurt worse than me. i can't communicate with my people. our radios aren't working. >> reporter: who are you moerd worried about and concerned about now? >> the people trapped in housing, the ems personnel. we had a class going on. we had 18 people in the class. they were running in that direction when the explosion -- i have no idea how many ems are hurt. >> reporter: if you could ask anything of the nation right now, what would it be? >> we're getting support. the main thing right now is just get support here. we're going to need some heavy equipment. probably the search team from texas a&m, because it's like an earthquake. a lot of the buildings are gone. they need to get some search teams in here to get the people out. probably from texas a&m, texas task force one. i called a friend in austin, i got through, and i said, please notify austin what's going on. i msd, we're going to need more than local.
>> reporter: right now is god the only thing that can help you guys? >> yeah. we've got help. you there's an east texas ambulance, limestone, there's a whitney ambulance here. we've got everybody around helping us, but it's a true disaster situation. >> reporter: what are your prayers for today and tomorrow and the next few weeks? >> that we get as many saved as we can. and get them to hospitals where they can get appropriate care. i believe we have a total of six hell koermen helicopters on the way. there's one right there. >> reporter: you look like you're in so much pain. can you even feel that with your adrenaline? >> yeah, but i just know i've got a job to do. thank god i normally go to the scene. i would have got to the fire first. thank god i didn't. i'd probably be dead. my wife wanted to go with me. she's in the truck right there. even on the other side of the
nursing home it blew out the windows of my truck, and screwed up the door and the hood. from the other side of the nursing home. >> we got a chance to talk to this man on the phone, george smith, while he was sitting at the hospital getting stitched up, as he said. he said he could not believe the extent of injuries. we wanted what he had seen. he said he believed of the original firefighters that went in, which is a volunteer fire department, he believes six firefighters are dead. he said at the nursing home, which he's the medical director of, that seven to ten people were unaccounted for but he said it is possible their family members came and actually picked them up. he also said something, you know, that -- horrifically sad, a little boy that was thrown through a home and they put him in a car to transport him to the hospital. we're hearing all these numbers of the folks who have been injured. we don't know what the number of fatalities are. he says we're going to have to wait until daylight until all emergency personnel can get in,
until it is safe in order to find potential victims. so, just a really tragic situation. he's lived in that community for 38 years. you know, that is his home. a very difficult situation. >> people on the ground trying to compare it to a bomb or trying to compare it to other disasters, but anyone who lives in a town like this knows a fire at a fertilizer plant is incredibly dangerous. first responders responding to a situation of a fire where there's anhydrous ammonia stored under very high pressure in tanks knows it's a very, very dangerous situation and that an explosion in that kind of a situation can be absolutely devastating. that's apparently what has happened here. also a concern about the chemicals in the air being blown by the wind and endangering the rest of the community. anhydrous ammonia held under very high pressure, in tanks. once it's released, first it can linger close to the ground before it can dissipate. it is flammable. plus, severe weather threat that affects the rescue efforts as
well. jennifer delgado has more on the weather situation. george howell saying concerns about rough weather moving in and how that might complicate the picture. >> we do have a thunderstorm watch just to the west of west, texas. here's the line right here. this squall line. along this we are going to see very gusty wind. winds up to 40 miles an hour. we've already seen some wind gusts up to 50. now, we're expecting it to make its way to west, texas, right around 5:30, 6:00 local time, again that's central time. here's waco, dallas up here. it's located roughly about 65 miles away. it's moving at a rate of 45 miles an hour. expecting it there around 6:19. and the problem is, with this coming through, with so many people not having proper shelter, being outside, we're talking about ground lightning as well as hail and strong winds. right now the current conditions
showing you wind at 21 miles an hour, gusts up to 29. we'll take you to the future. as this front pushes through, as we said, right around 6:00. behind that we'll see winds shifting out of the northwest. making the flow go down towards the southeast. as we take it through, 6 a.m. and all the way through noon, we're still going to keep rain in the forecast. with those wind gusts up to 25 miles per hour. right now we're going to send it back over to john. i think he's live in boston. >> jennifer delgado, thanks to you. we're talking an hour, hour and a half away before those strong wind gusts and difficult weather reaches that town of west, texas, right now where they are in this incredible recovery effort at this moment. joining us on the phone right now is glenn robinson. he is the ceo of the hillcrest medical center. he's in waco, texas, about 18 miles away. that's where many people are being taken for treatment. thank you so much for joining us by phone. give us a sense of what you're
seeing at your facility. >> thank you, john. this evening since this event began at 8:00 local time, we have now treated 101 patients here at our trauma center here at hillcrest baptist medical center. across town at providence they have treated 56 patients. we're aware that at least nine patients were transferred to parkland's burn center north in dallas and our center hospital scott & white, our backup, they have received at least four patients. in addition, we transferred two pediatric patients brought to us earlier and we knew needed a higher level of pediatric care and they were taken to scott & white in temple. so far at this hour our trauma surgeons are reporting to us we will have admitted 27 patients total here at hillcrest. five of those patients are in
our intensive care unit at this time. we have already completed five surgeries and we're in the process of probably getting ready to go with a couple more surgeries at this hour. >> what types of injuries are you seeing at this point? >> the vast majority of injuries we're seeing have to do with lacerations. the type of injuries you would expect following an explosion with a large amount of debris creating a huge debris field. many patients arrived with lacerations, punk fewer wound. our orthopedic specialists have been taking care of those patients with broken bones. in addition we've also seen head trauma. our neurosurgical trauma team has been taking care of those patients as well. >> any confirmation of fatalities? >> no fatalities at our facility
that we've seen. what's going on at the location in west, that best would come from law enforcement or emergency personnel on the scene there. >> glenn robinson, ceo of hillcrest medical center in waib waco, texas, thank you so much for joining us. please, keep up the work there tonight and we'll speak to you again. really appreciate it. up next on "early start" law enforcement officials saying that they are making significant progress as they search for suspects here in boston to find out who was behind those boston marathon bombings. for his small. can i get the smith contract, please? thank you. that's three new paper shredders. [ boris ] put 'em on my spark card. [ garth ] boris' small business earns 2% cash back on every purchase every day. great businesses deserve unlimited rewards. read back the chicken's testimony, please. "buk, buk, bukka!" [ male announcer ] get the spark business card from capital one and earn unlimited rewards. choose 2% cash back or double miles
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advanced home management here today. adt. always there. we begin with breaking news this morning. there has been a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant. this is west, texas. we do understand there have been many injuries. i'm counting right now almost 200 patients that have been treated at local hospitals. there have been two confirmed fatalities. however, authorities are saying that that number could rise, probably will rise, as daylight takes over and emergency crews have an opportunity to go to the scene. we've talked to many people who have been treating the victims overnight who actually said they did witness more fatalities. it's emergencies -- or volunteer firefighters that went to the scene first. there was a gentleman there who
works at the nursing home across the street that sustained a lot of damage that said he believes at least five firefighters were, indeed, killed during that explosion as they were running into the situation. we're going to continue to monitor the situation for you. we have team coverage. we have a lot of people on the ground there that are monitoring the situation to bring you the latest information. >> also, following the investigation into who planted bombs at the finish line of the boston marathon this week, killing three and hurting dozens and dozens of people. john berman is live for us this morning in boston with that story. good morning, john. >> thanks. i'm just a block and a half away from where the bombs went off and that area is still shut down as investigators pore through that crime scene. there have been significant developments in that investigation of the boston marathon attack. investigators pinpointing two men they spotted in pictures near the finish line. they are calling the men possible suspects.
now, those pictures have been distributed to federal and state agencies. our susan candiotti is all over this story. she joins us with the latest. good morning, susan. >> reporter: good morning, john. and right off the start here we want to tell you that any video you see now while i'm talking or any still images are not the ones that i'm about to tell you more about. again, we have this from a federal law enforcement official who tells us of this high interest in two people the official describing as possible suspects. trying to locate these people because of where they were near the finish line before the blast of the boston marathon. and also they have an interest in them because of what they were carrying, which appear to be two dark-colored backpacks in which, as we know from investigators, they've been saying early on that from the evidence crime scene photos that they believe that the bomb may have been placed inside a metal
container, a pressure cooker, and that in turn was placed inside a black nylon bag or b k backpacks. so they're looking for these men, to locate them. my sources tell me they do not have names for these people, therefore, they're circulating these photographs among federal and state agencies around the country. with a bit of a message, a memo that goes like this, quote, the attached photos are being circulated in an attempt to identify the individuals highlighted. feel free to pass this around to any of your fellow agents elsewhere. i have seen these photographs. there are two of them. and we can best describe them as being still photographs. one from sort of -- taken from an aerial camera and two people are highlighted in them. there is a second photograph where this seems to be taken from ground level. all of this coming at a time where yesterday we started
hearing authorities make, as you indicated, john, significant progress in this case. now, there was supposed stob a news conference, a regular news briefing yesterday, but it was postponed and then eventually canceled. so we'll see whether we get more information about this as the day goes on. john? >> susan candiotti. those wheels are turning with those photos being passed around with law enforcement officials all over the country. susan candiotti, our thanks to you. coming up, so much news this morning. an explosion at a texas fertilizer plant. dozens are feared dead this morning and there could be poison gas still lingering in the air. the latest developments just ahead. he can focus on his recovery. he doesn't have to worry so much about his mortgage, groceries, or even gas bills. kick! kick... feel it! feel it! feel it! nice work! ♪ you got it! you got it! yes! aflac's gonna help take care of his expenses. and us...we're gonna get him back in fighting shape. ♪
[ male announcer ] see what's happening behind the scenes at ducktherapy.com. a deadly explosion at a west, texas, fertilizer plant. the blast so strong it registered as a seismic event.
>> just a ball of fire went up. looked like a nuclear bomb went off. big old mushroom cloud. >> dozens of people are feared dead. hundreds more injured. and officials are very concerned about a deadly gas that could be in the air. and a possible break in the marathon bombings. we are here in boston where investigators are focusing on two men seen near the finish line just seconds before the blasts. welcome back to "early start," so much new this is morning. i'm john berman. >> i'm zoraida sambolin in new york. >> and we're following breaking news out of texas. the small town of west, near waco, reeling from a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant. at least two people have died. unfortunately, that number could rise dramatically with the light of day. more than 150 people are now being treated in area hospitals. that blast leveled everything for blocks in west, texas.
a fire at the plant prompted evacuations before the explosion. >> i saw how bad it was, so i went to the nursing home. i'm the medical director for the nursing home. i went over to the station closest to where the fire was and called all personnel to me there that were in the building. i said, get people evacuated to the far side of the building. luckily, we had most everybody out then, but then there was just a major, major explosion. the windows came in on me. the roof came in on me. the ceiling came in. i worked my way out to go get some more help. >> authorities are now going door to door, looking for people who may still be trapped in their homes. there's concern this morning that emergency first responders may be among the fatalities. they were responding to that fire. the fire, of course, before the explosion, john. >> it's still dark there. it is still a very fluid situation on the ground in west, texas. cnn's martin savidge is there.
martin, what's the latest? >> reporter: the latest is, of course, the ongoing rescue effort under way. the door-to-door searching you just described. now the weather. there's a severe line headed directly for west, texas, right now. that's going to be problematic, at least in the short term, because of the high wind it could bring. structures have already been weakened in that community. and it could impact the effort to not only try to save lives but could also have an impact on the winds. and the winds are potentially what could carry the anhydrous ammonia, the very dangerous chemical they're talking about here, that could be inhaled. there are three levels at which they're functioning and still worried about this disaster 10, 11 hours after the fact. that is, they've got to rescue, got to evacuate still, and they've got to keep an eye on that other tank that has not exploded. this community, you know, when that explosion went off, it shatter the buildings, shattered lives and it has torn this town upside down.
stunning video. the west fertilizer plant in the small town of west, texas, about 20 miles from waco, exploding. the blast and the massive fire that followed leaving dozens of homes and buildings heavily damaged were destroyed. the town's mayor telling cnn what it felt like. >> i've just never seen an explosion like that. it was a ball of fire, went up like a nuclear bomb went off. big old mushroom cloud. >> reporter: the blast was so strong, it registered as a magnitude 2.1 earthquake. >> explosion on the horizon. >> we need every ambulance we can get this way. a bomb just went off inside here. it's pretty bad. >> reporter: half of the town's 2600 residents were forced to evacuate. officials concerned about potentially deadly gas fumes and a second fertilizer tank that could also explode. people living near the plant feared for their lives. >> when it exploded, we all just
hit the ground. i was trying to cover up my daughter because there was a lot of debris flying. and then after that, it was just basically search and rescue. >> reporter: the smoldering fire and fumes prevented rescue workers from getting near the plant. officials say the blast area resembles a war zone. >> massive. just like iraq. just like the murray building in oklahoma city. same kind of anhydrous exploded, so you can imagine what kind of damage we're looking at there. >> reporter: casualty numbers, john, still difficult to ascertain. we do know there are fatalities. that's been confirmed by authorities. those fatalities reach out to not just civilians but first responders. many took the brunt of that blast. they were trying to fight the fire and evacuate people when the blast went off. this is the command center. that's why you see the collection behind us. we're anticipating a news conference in just a few
minutes, john. >> we'll let you get to the news conference, martin. martin savidge in west, texas, thank you so much. >> cnn's george howell joins us by phone from waco, texas. many of the injured have been taken to a hospital there. george, what can you tell us? >> reporter: we had some updated information now. several hospitals on a list here. hillcrest hospital, 101 patients. providence hospital, 65 patients. they saw 65, admitted 12. we're talking about moderate injuries there. scott & white, which is the trauma center, level 1 trauma center, five patients. two are children, two in critical condition at this hour. three adults, two critical and one in stable condition. and also we learned two victims were taken to the parkatlanland hospital in dallas. their condition unknown. we're talking everything from scrapes to bruises to -- >> george, i'm going to interrupt you. we have a news conference happening in west, texas. we're going to listen in.
>> i won't rehash old stuff unless everybody needs that. are there folks here that need that? here's what i have so far. we have verified the times are a little different from what we first thought. fire call came in at 7:29 p.m. local time. the west fire department responded to that call and was in the process of working an active fire at the fertilizer plant. at 7:53 p.m. we got the first call of an explosion at the plant. those of you that have seen the video understand the devastating effects of that explosion. it was a significant explosion. i have talked to the troops that are on the ground there now, that were going door to door, and there are homes leveled,
there are businesses leveled, there is massive devastation in the downtown west area. i will tell you at this point they are still in the search and rescue phase and they are currently going from door to door, house to house, business to business, still looking for wounded and injured people that have not been able to get out because of their injuries. i can't confirm numbers of casualties, but i can tell you we do have casualties. i can tell you the injured folks from the hospitals. at this point hillcrest hospital has treated at least 100 individuals with varying amounts of injuries. providence hospital has treated to the upward numbers of 60 plus for the same type of injuries. scott & white in temple has also
received some injuries, and they are working injuries from this explosion as well. abbott high school is our relief center for the evacuees. that is where we are sending people trying to find out about their loved ones. abbott high school, again, is the relief center for that. we know right now that our mclellan county sheriff's department is on the scene actively working this case along with atf, who has been called in, as well as several of the other local government agencies to assist. i will tell you at the beginning, this is a crime scene. we're not indicating that it is a crime, but we don't know. what that means to us is that until we know that it was an industrial accident, we will work it as a crime scene. atf is conducting the main
investigation at that crime scene, which is the fertilizer plant. mclellan county sheriff's department will be investigating any of the deaths that resulted from that explosion earlier this evening. there will be investigators by mclellan county sfo. firefighters on the scene fighting the fire. the explosion occurred while they were actively trying to put that fire out. there was a law enforcement official on that scene as well that was working with the fire department in some type of capacity. until we know for sure who those individuals are in specific numbers, i can tell you that they have -- they range anywhere from three to five as far as the number of firefighters that are missing. the casualty numbers, i don't have a hard number to give to you at this point. they are still working on that.
i can tell you that it is estimated anywhere from five to 15 at this point. i know that's a rough estimate, but that's the best i can give you. i know some of you have questions, but what i will ask you to do is please let me call on you so we don't shout over each other. it's very difficult to hear, as y'all know, with the generators and such. that brings you up to speed on where we are. i will tell you that that area down where the fertilizer plant is, is shut down. that neighborhood is shut down. i just talked to the mclellan county chief deputy who has his troops there. he told me some of the devastation that his troops are seeing, is that there are homes leveled. businesses are leveled. he said it looks like when the blast occurred the compression when the impact occurred, if
that's the correct wording, literally destroyed homes in and around that plant. we are, again, in the process of search and rescue. that is going to continue for some time. we are hoping that we will recover folks that maybe have not been able to get out from the rubble. but that process is ongoing. at some point this will turn into a recovery operation, but at this point we're still in search and rescue. i know that the area is going to be shut down. they will not give me a time on how long. i don't expect them to be able to give you a time on how long any time soon. in these type of investigations, there is no hurry short of getting the injured out and treating the wounded to complete anything. they will take the necessary time they need. they will keep that neighborhood shut down. i will tell you as media, i know you're itching to get there, but
it is not a good idea. mainly for your safety, we're asking that you stay put. at some point this morning, i will kick it over to somebody from west. it's been miening that either the mayor will come back or a city official will be here to address you. i have heard 10:00 for that time. so, those of you that need to be here, please be here, and at 10:00 some official from the city of west will be here to address you in a little more detail of what's going on down there. again at this point, they are working it as a search and rescue. they will continue to do that for an unspecified amount of time until they think that they have exhausted all means of fining people. and until that point gets here, what they will end up turning into is an investigative mode and they will keep the area shut down. atf will start working the fertilizer plant as a crime
scene. again, mclennan county s.o. along with their resources will start going from house to house and working any of what we'll term at this point questionable deaths that may have occurred from the explosion. i'll take some questions from you. again, let me call on you, please, and make sure that you talk loud enough so i'm able to hear. >> sergeant, why call this a crime scene from the beginning? why not hedge it a different direction and just say you don't know? >> better to label it a crime scene and then it turn into an industrial accident than to say at a later time -- we always start out looking at worst case scenarios. that's what we're doing here. i can tell you, i have heard no indications that this was anything other than an accidental fire. however, the investigators in this case have not been able to get inside and see, determine what the source of the fire was, where it came from, whether it was intentionally set or whether it was not. they don't know.
>> is there anything to indicate from the radio traffic that it would have been intentionally set? >> nothing at this point indicates that we have had criminal activity. however, we are absolutely not ruling that out. the investigators will keep an open mind and they will determine as they get through this investigation. >> was this an all-volunteer fire department? >> i don't have an answer to that question. i'm not sure. >> what were they fighting the fire with? >> i know they had their apparatus there and trucks -- >> was it water? >> sir, don't have the answer to that. yes, sir. >> the casualties, you're talking fatalities -- >> i didn't say 15 to 20. i said anywhere from 5 to 15 is the fatality numbers. we know we've had at least 160-plus injuries treated at the hospital.
>> the five to 15 fatalities? >> that's correct. yes, ma'am. >> can you estimate how many structures were damaged? >> not at this point. they will get a better determination on the amount of structures. i can tell you that that is a pretty compact residential and business neighborhood. i can tell you from being in there earlier that some of the homes i saw, described it earlier as tornadic type destruction. one home was okay. the home next to it, everything was shattered, wood was showing through, brick were pulled off the wall. it just -- it had no rhyme or reason as to what it hit or missed. yes, sir. >> at this point what is the toughest part for investigators? >> the toughest part for the investigators in the recovery is going to be just having to wait to be able to get in there. number one, they have to wait until it's safe to do so. i can give you a little update. there was what was described to
me as some smoldering fires that continued, not only in the homes in the neighborhood but also inside the fertilizer plant itself. obviously, they're going to want to be very careful in entering any of the structures, whether it's a home, a business or the fertilizer plant, because we certainly don't want any more casualties from this fire. yes, ma'am. >> sir, that north side of town they have -- [ inaudible ] >> i have asked that question specifically about the environmental impact and the potential for that to continue. have i been told by the emergency management people that are downtown that at this point there is no threat to safety from the smoke from the fire. yes, sir. >> what about weather concerns? >> so far we're waiting on a front to come through. at this point, i have not looked at radar. we know at some point the weather's going to shift out, the wind are going to come out of the north.
again, i'm told that's not going to be a concern based on the fire being under -- mostly under control. >> two things you may have answered already. any continuing or has fire resumed and the geography, how many blocks affected by the damage? >> when i talked to chief deputy kauffman from mclennan county s.o., he described the devastation as immediately around the area as devastating. he said homes were leveled. he said it just kind of depended on where you were. now, he didn't give me specifics but he said in a general close proximity to the fertilizer plant that homes had, in fact, been leveled. others suffered structural damage, windows blown out, roofs caved in on the inside of homes. that's part of the process they're going to have to continue. they're going to have to go into each and every individual home and clear each and every
individual home to make sure there are no casualties or people trapped or injured. >> any idea what the casualty numbers are? >> no, sir, i don't have that. sir? >> you mentioned house-to-house search. have you found any survivors? >> i don't know that. i know they were going from home to home. obviously, i'm trying not to bother those folks on the ground. they have a lot on their plate at this point. i don't -- i don't know specifics on rescues that they've actually done. ma'am? i'll get right with you. [ inaudible ] >> daylight, obviously, it would be a little safer for first responders. due to the devastation that is there, houses being ripped apart. you've got serious concerns from wood, nails, stepping on floors
that are not secured, potential for more roof cave-ins. to answer your question you asked earlier, from what i understand, the fire department feels comfortable saying they've got the fire under control. i'm assuming that they are still there watching that fire and making sure that it doesn't advance. >> and any other structures -- >> obviously, there was a school in the neighborhood. thank god that the school was out. that is something that before that school resumes, they will obviously go in. i don't have a report on whether the school caught fire. it's my understanding that there was damage to the school, but to what extent, i don't know. >> can you characterize how much of this -- >> what is the air quality? is it safe to be around? >> from what i understood from our emergency management people on the scene, the air quality at this point is not an issue. it is not a concern.
>> can you characterize how much of the town was effected? one gentleman told me how a lot of the town is just gone. >> i don't know. i can tell you that from when i drove through there, there was devastation that changed from house to house, block to block. it is a -- i don't want to call it constricted neighborhood, but there are homes close together, businesses close together. the main hub of downtown is a major thoroughfare. lots of businesses in and around the area. the city of west has experienced a very significant, major event for them. they have experienced significant devastation in their town. they are going to be in a mode of recovery for a long time. fortunately, they are, again as i said, a very tight-knit group here in this community.
they have already pulled together. i would like to mention again that not only have we had local fire, rescue, police, medical services, but we have had assistance from the dallas/ft. worth metroplex as well. there has been an outpouring of support from law enforcement, fire, medical, red cross is here, from my understanding the governmental agencies are here assisting, fema has been made aware, all of those issues get worked out at a certain point in time. at this point, again, our main goal and our main function is to rescue those that we can rescue, get them the medical help they need and help those people start survi surviving. >> do you have -- >> the staffing at the plant at the time of the explosion? >> i don't have a number of the staff. i don't know -- i haven't even heard if they were in the process of shutting down, had a skeleton crew there. i don't know that information. >> are there rescue and cadaver
dogs making their way through the area now? >> there will be at some point. atf is going to bring in explosive dogs. i'm guessing, depending on the devastation to the homes, businesses that may actually use dogs to help search those homes as well. yes, ma'am. >> you said the air quality. [ inaudible ] >> i think that's a safety concern. just for that area. we would much rather folks remain in homes. certainly we don't want people wandering the neighborhoods. obviously, there would be kernsz of people coming into the neighborhood to sight see. this is not the time to do this. this town has suffered a devastating setback that they will recover from but they have more to worry about than people wandering through their homes.
yes, ma'am. >> is there any way to measure the magnitude of the blast? >> i can tell you that i had a report from some of my cohorts that a seismic graph in amarillo, texas, registered a 2.5 on their richter scale. i can tell you from seeing some of the video that i've seen, from talking to some of the people i've talked to tonight, it was a huge explosion. the devastating fact of that comes from the concussion, the shock wave that reached out from that. it reached blocks, if not miles in its devastating effects. yes, sir. the question was, do we expect the number to grow and the number of casualties? i don't know. five to 15 is a significant number for a town this size.
my guess is going to be at daylight, once we're able to assess a little more, that we will either see the casualty rate rise or the injury rate rise. we would like to say we hope not. we're going to hope for the best and prepare for whatever we come across. yes, ma'am. >> we've seen markings on the houses. what do the symbols mean on the homes? >> the officers that were searching the areas are using that. i can't tell you what the symbols are, but i understand they're color coded and that that symbolizes they have found homes that they have cleared, searched. they've either recovered somebody out of a home or they may have found somebody deceased in a home, would be my guess. >> do you know what an "x" means? >> i'm assuming the "x" would mean that home has been cleared but i'm not for sure. okay. any more questions? yes, ma'am.
[ inaudible ] >> you know, for lack of better cliche, as the crow flies, if you will, we're probably two, three miles from fertilizer plant, roughly, two, three miles from the fertilizer plant. it is on the other side of the interstate. as you see the lights that are across the interstate now, that is a fairground football field. that's where they initially took some causalities to. the site of the blast is more toward the north side of the town but it is not far from that at all. the mileage as far as the inside of the city of west, it's not a huge city. 2800 in number, 2800 plus, last census number we had. the city of west itself is not huge. but it is compact in the area where the fertilizer plant was.
all right. again, thank you for your patience with me. i will tell you that as i get somebody here to relieve me at some point this morning,ly make sure i get them introduced to you so you can know who to go to. please be prepared some time around 10:00 for somebody from the city of west to be here visiting with you. >> you've been listening to sergeant patrick swanton with the waco, texas, police department. really significant information that came out here. all morning long he's been reluctant to talk about the casualties here. they confirmed two. he's saying between 5 and 15 casualties now. however, he did point out that it is still a search and rescue operation. particularly in the town of west, texas. he says there are a lot -- massive devastation there, a lot of buildings collapsed so they have to continue to go through the rubble and see if there are other people injured or there are more serious issues. >> again, three to five firefighters are missing. he says 160-plus injured, 5 to
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>> a fire, then as massive explosion at a west, texas, fertilizer plant. this blast was so powerful it registered as a 2.1 seismic event. >> i walked through the blast area. i searched some houses earlier
tonight. massive. just like iraq. just like the murray building in oklahoma city. >> the local authorities telling us now they believe the greatest threat from the fire is over but they are still battling it. firefighters are still missing and the big "x" factor, potentially deadly gas could be ling eering in the air connecte to fertilizer, anhydrous ammonia. >> and this, a possible break in the boston marathon bombing. investigators identifying two possible suspects who were seen near the finish line, seen moments here before the blast. and we're waiting on test results to confirm what a letter sent to a senator and the president were laced with the deadly poison ricin. a mississippi man has been arrested for allegedly sending them. so much news this morning. so much to tell you about. good morning from boston.
this is a special edition of "early start." i'm john berman. >> i'm chris cuomo. 6:00 a.m. in the east. a lot going on. we're going to begin with the breaking news we're following out of texas. this started last night. local time, 7:29 there in west, texas. then at 7:53, the explosion. first came word of the fire. it has been a battle beyond compare in the area. it is being compared to war zone by those who are fighting it right now trying to get the fire under control, especially with the added ingredient of these chemical properties of the fertilizers that they're worried about. homes have been destroyed. buildings have been destroyed. we do not know numbers of what loss of human life there has been. the injuries are upwards of 180 people now in local hospitals, but the officials on the ground say that is still flew sglid the
r range, between 5 and 15 right now. the news conference just finished up a while while ago. >> the search is preliminary. we'll stick with what's going on on the ground. they do believe they're starting to get the situation under control. let's take a listen from what we've heard recently. >> it was a significant explosion. i have talked to the troops that are on the ground there now. they are going door to door. there are homes leveled. there are businesses leveled. there is massive devastation in the downtown west area. >> cnn's martin savidge on the ground for news west, texas. martin, what's the latest? >> chris, as you just heard there, they're still going door to door. we're now 11 hours after this explosion and the search and rescue operation is still ongoing. that gives you an indication of how large an area that's been devastated, how difficult it's been for the rescuers to try to
move about in the darkness and in that devastation that they've been talking about. and then there's also the lingering threat. that threat comes from a number of sources but primarily the fertilizer plant is still one large tank thats has not exploded, still has the potential of a release of deadly toxin. it's been a difficult, difficult night and it's bound to be even more difficult day because daylight is no doubt going to bring more and more painful discoveries. here's how it all happened last night. stunning video. the west fertilizer plant in the small town of west, texas, about 20 miles from waco, exploding. the blast of the massive fire that followed, leaving dozens of homes and buildings heavily damaged or destroyed. the town's mayor telling cnn what it felt like. >> i just never have seen an explosion like that. it was just a ball of fire and went up like a nuclear bomb went
off. big old mushroom cloud. >> reporter: the blast was so strong it registered as a magnitude 2.1 earthquake. >> explosion on the horizon. >> a bomb just went off inside here. it's pretty bad. >> reporter: half of the town's 2600 residents were forced to evacuate. officials concerned about potentially deadly gas fumes and a second fertilizer tank that could also explode. people living near the plant feared for their lives. >> when it exploded, we all just hit the ground and i was trying to cover up my daughter because there was a lot of debris flying. within -- after that, it was just basically search and rescue. >> reporter: the smoldering fire and fumes prevented rescue workers from getting near the plant. officials say the blast area resembles a war zone. >> massive, just like iraq, just like the murray building in oklahoma city. same kind of anhydrous exploded.
so you can imagine what kind of damage we're looking at there. >> reporter: and the problem, of course, chris, was the fact that when you had that fire, first responders went to the scene, they began the evacuations, that's when the plant literally blew up in their faces. you reported that the sheriff's department and atf have been called in. they are investigating and they are looking at that devastation as a crime scene. also point out so far, nothing to suggest anything of than an accident. but in an abundance of caution, federal was brought in to take a look. chris? >> martin, at this point, it's just to be safe that they're conducting an investigation. fluid situation. because they're dealing with fire and chemical properties, what could be the significance of the coming weather, supposedly rain and severe winds, what are they saying about that? >> well, you know, they seem to imply that the wind and the wind shift which may push it more to the north is not a concern so much for the community.
it may be that it's driving it away from -- could be a more populated area. however, the weather is expected to be severe possibly and you're talking about a lot of weakened structures. still got an ongoing search and rescue operation. if there's still a potential for people to be trapped, that's not a good thing. so weather is not something they want to have to deal with, but they will have to deal with and they'll have to deal with it soon. >> martin, thank you very much. we will be back to you on the ground soon. people are being treated at a number of medical facilities in the area right now. the numbers range somewhere north of 160 people hurt. one of the centers where many people are being treat sd in waco, texas, the hillcrest medical center. that's where we find cnn's george how well by phone right now. george, what are you seeing? >> john, let's start with the numbers. let's put the numbers in perspective. from our last count, talking about 173 people that were sent to various hospitals quickly
through the list, at hillcrest hospital, 101 patients. providence hospital, 65 patients. at scott and white, 5 patients. and at parkland hospital in dallas, we understand two patients were taken there. and, also, let's talk about the casualties. early on we heard from fire officials that they were concerned that casualties could rise as high as 70. this latest number that we're hearing, anywhere from 5 to 15, that is the newest number we're hearing. and also three to five firefighters missing. also, i want to talk about the weather conditions as well. we were covering some severe storms in oklahoma just a few hours ago. and this storm system right now here in texas, you know, the air is still, temperatures are warm, but here in the next couple of hours these conditions will change. it will hamper the investigation, the search and rescue. but again, as you heard even martin savidge indicate and we heard that official, not as
concerned about that anhydrous ammonia, that fire, they're not as concerned about the winds shifting that. initially there was some thought about evacuating the other part of the town. at this point, it seems they're not as concerned about that. >> george, the range of injuries right now, are we talking about mostly blast injuries or any sense of chemical exposure? >> it's a range of thing. respiratory issues and, yeah, bruises, broken bones. we also know that at one of the hospitals here, at scott and white, those five patients, two of them are children. both are in critical condition. and three adults, two in critical and one is stable at this hour. >> george howell for us at waco at the hillcrest medical center, 18 miles a way from west, texas, where this explosion happened last night. george, our thanks to you. >> as the officials are coming forward with word of the situation, you are seeing a picture of what they're dealing with.
director of west, texas, ems telling george smith, telling our affiliate, incredible story of what he saw and what he did in spite of being hurt himself. take a listen. >> there was just a major, major explosion. windows came in on me, the roof came in on me, the ceiling came. and i worked my way out to go get some more help. of course, we lost all communication because the power went out. the station was badly damaged. the whole 1500 block of still meadow which is across the street to it. my son was there. he was on the second floor. it would have fallen on him. that whole street is gone. we have a lot of people still trapped in houses. that's dangerous material, hazardous material, we can't get to them right now. >> never seen anything like this before? >> no. i was a. in katrina afterwards with the disaster medical ass t
assistance team but it's overwhelming for a town of 3400, we have three ambulances. and there are literally hundreds of people hurt. i know -- i don't -- i haven't been there but i'm very worried that my -- was on scene. those personnel are probably deceased. i think some of the firemen may be deceased because i was inside a building quite a ways from it. i know most of the houses there are in bad shape. our ambulance building is destroyed. >> what would you compare this to? >> an atom bomb. a bomb. yeah. >> what's your emotional status right now? >> overwhelmed. trying to do the best i can. of course, they're trying to get me down because i've got a job to do. there's people hurt more than me that i need to get. but i can't communicate with my people. our radios aren't working.
i don't know where my people are at to get back to them. >> you see the injuries there on george smith's face. he is a doctor and a director of the west, texas, ems. explaining a very dire situation. and still, a lot of unknowns. search and rescue still going on there in a four-block area around the fire, including businesses and homes. we also caught up with george smith a little bit later on about an hour ago where he was getting stitched up himself me hadn't even gotten any treatment to that point and he told us what else he saw. >> they were mentioning the patients that went to the waco hospital, i think treated something like 30 people. i know at least three of those were critical but they were flown by helicopter up to dallas, including one child. one little boy i understand was thrown through a wall. one child actually got thrown
through the wall of his house into the yard. this family member picked him up and was -- private party to regional hospital. he was very critical. they were all flown up to the dallas area regional hospital. >> i was reading online that it's a volunteer fire department that actually responds to this area. am i correct in saying that? >> yes, it's mostly volunteer fire department and volunteer ambulance service. >> and of those volunteer firefighters that showed up to the area, how many do you think were lost? how many do you think are dead? >> we think six of them. >> and i sincerely appreciate your time this morning. i know this is very difficult for you. this is your home. of the folks that were in the nursing home, and i do know you have a connection to those nursing home. your say that -- are you the medical director for the nursing home? >> yes, i am. >> the medical director. what kind of injuries did the
people there sustain? >> most of them werer blast injuries. the ceiling fell. i know at least one broken leg, broken femur, upper thigh. the ceiling fell on them. maybe as many as between seven and ten nursing home residents not accounted for. they may have been picked up by members but we don't know. it was very, very hectic. >> it's been a long, long night for dr. george smith right there. we want to go to patrick swanson right now who is on the phone for us right now. sergeant swanton is on the phone. we just heard a news conference. sergeant swar on tnton, can you us the latest right now? >> yeah, update what i basically did with the rest of the folks. at this point we are still in a search and rescue operation.
we know that we have at least 160 plus individuals that have been treated at local hospitals for injuries ranging from minor cuts, wounds, to broken bones. some of the injuries have been described to me as critical type injuries. we know now that the fire call actually went out at approximately 7:29 p.m. local time. the west volunteer fire department responded to the scene. several firefighters were actually in the process of working the fire. they knew because of a seriousness of where they were they started doing evacuations. at 7:53 we got the first call of an explosion at the plant. that explosion was a devastating explosion for this community. it has leveled homes in neighborhoods around the area. it has leveled some of the
businesses. we know that we have casualties. we are uncertain of the numbers. i can tell you at this point we still have people missing. we still have firefighters missing that were there working the fire. i don't like to guess but we're hearing from anywhere from 5 to 15 casualties, fatalities at this point and those numbers could rise once we are able to get into some of the homes and be able to search through rubble. >> we understand that it's still so early and our hearts go out to you there and we're sheer everyone's thoughts are on the situation with what's going on in west, texas. is there any indication of what started the fire and do you have the resources that you need now? are you getting help from surrounding communities? >> absolutely. one thing i would really like for the public to know. waco police department, which is the largest city near west.
west is about 15 miles north. we responded along with waco fire department. numerous fire agencies, sheriff's departments, mclennan county sheriff department, they are working in the downtown area securing the scene. they've been going house to house, door to door, along with our local police department. we have got a tremendous response from law enforcement, medical, fire personnel, first responders, and businesses wanting to help. at this point, we are still in the search and rescue phase. i can tell you that the atf and the state fire marshal are here. they will treat this as a crime scene until we know otherwise. there are not indications at this point that a crime is being committed. however, until we can prove otherwise, they will investigate this as possibly a criminal
activity that has occurred. i have just been updated that the fire is is still ongoing at the fertilizer plant, however, it is somewhat contained and controlled. but it is still an issue based on potential for that to erupt again and cause further damage. i have also been told that the atmosphere in the general area is safe, that they don't expect that to change over the next few hours even though we are having some weather issues here. wind is shifting from one direction to the other due to a front that is coming through. or emergency management people that are here and visiting with the folks that are helping with meteorological stuff are telling us that that should not be an issue. >> all right. thank you very much for the update. please stay safe. we'll get back to you soon, sir. right now there is a presser
going on at one of the local hospitals about the situation there. let's listen in. >> we do take care of pediatrics but we felt with the children's hospital part of our system, we're standing by, they were ready and so we transferred those patients. >> what kind of injuries t to the children? >> off the top of my head, i do t not know. that happened very early in the evening. they were some of the very first patients that were brought to us. and so we were able to get those patients out of here promptly and get them to mclane children's hospital in temple. >> irrigated, flushed? >> yeah, we saw that early on. we're treating them. they had some irritation to the eyes. and so we were able to irrigate those and take care of them. but as the evening went on, patients that were arriving later did not exhibit any of those symptoms. >> any more patients being brought to the hospital or does it look like that's pretty much
all of them? it. >> has really slowed. but we are on standby and especially with the coming up our trauma team is here poised and ready to accept any additional patients that rescue teams might find and transport to our facility. >> can you describe the scene when all the people started coming in? >> when a disaster code is called, we're all alerted simultaneously with text messaging and paging. i arrived probably 15 minutes after the page went out. i was already at home. >> you've been listening to glen robinson, the ceo of hillcrest baptist medical center in waco letting us know some 100 patients were transported there and from there they were able to -- >> all right. elizabeth cohen is with us here right now in boston. elizabe elizabeth, we were listening to that news conference in the hillcrest medical center describing the condition of these patients as they were coming in. one of the interesting things we heard is that early in the
night, this explosion happened around 7:30 local time right there. early in the night they were seeing irritation in the eyes which to me sounds like a chemical issue there but they weren't seeing that all night long. >> what's going on here it appears to be the release of anhydrous ammonia. and anhydrous ammonia is a chemical that is used in fertilizer. when it releases the effects can be anything from irritation to the eyes, nose, throat, you get into fresh air and you're fine. that's that is if you don't breathe in a lot of it. if you breathe in a lot of it you can have the issue of severe irritation or even death. so, for example, this is some of the chemicals released from the other explosion in the 1980s. so it's been released in nevada before, it's been released -- sorry, north dakota before. it's been released many times. they know what to expect. >> anhydrous means without water and this is particulate matter. >> it is exposed to gas and you
breathe it in. it depends on how much you breathe in. you breathe in a lot, it can kill you almost instantly. you don't breathe in much, get to fresh air and you're fine and no lasting effects at all. >> we heard from the sergeant, the atmosphere in the area right now is testing safe. does it dissipate quickly? is that why they can be so certain that it's safe? >> it can dissipate relatively quickly. my western would concern would people who breathed it in immediately. >> two incidents. first came to the scene at 7:24, 7:25, responding to a fire there. the first responders got very close to the area. then the explosion. so it could be that they were fairly close by and had expos e exposure. >> and didn't know they should be wearing masks, right? you come into a fire you don't necessarily know that you should be wearing the mask that would filter it out. >> they're going to be dealing with burns also. that takes a lot of manpower, a lot of sophistication. how quickly do you think they will be able to get the help
they need? >> very different situation for example where we're standing. when the explosion happened monday you have five trauma one level centers. it's not the case in waco. >> we have the ceo of hillcrest hospital that has seen the flow of injuries down there. glenn robinson is on the phone right now. can you hear us? >> yes, uh-huh, i certainly can. i can hear you fine. >> thank you very much for joining us. our thoughts are with you. how is the hospital doing with this early influx of casualties? >> well, we are almost back to normal in many ways. of course, it was a very hectic evening, as you would expect with such a sudden influx. but this is something as a trauma center we drill for constantly. we plan for. we hope and pray it never occurs. but when it does occur, we are blessed to have such a great team of professionals of physicians and nurses and staff and they just responded in an amazing way in the hours that followed the explosion that we
experienced last night. in fact, we probably had more than 250 physicians and nurses and staff that were not on duty at the time that responded back to our facility and so we were able to more than double our staff and to be able to accommodate taking care of the patients that we were receiving. >> and you received more than 100 patients at one point. how many are currently still being treated? >> our trauma surgeons are telling us at this hour that we probably will admit 28 of the patients that we saw. five of those 28 are in our icu. we classify of those five, two are in critical condition, three are in serious condition. but we will be admitting at least 28 patients so far from this unfortunate event at west. >> because of the presence of this anhydrous ammonia, this potentially dangerous substance at the plant, there's a lot of
concern right now about what types of injuries you were treating, what types of conditions. any sign of respiratory problems, any sign of skin irritation, any sign of anything that might be connected to this substance? >> no, just that you were noting in the previous interview. a couple of patients that had irritation of the eyes but as the evening continued we no longer saw those types of symptoms or people presenting are those types of injuries or irritation. but it is something that we're certainly monitoring. we're keep an eye out for in the hours and the day that we are facing, if something were to change, we will be prepared to take care of those patients. we are not seeing an increase at this time of patients experiencing any sort of irritation or chemical burns. >> well, thank you very much for taking the time. we know it's a very hectic moment for you there right now. hopefully the worst is behind you there. good luck going forward. >> one of the concerns right now, chris, in that area is that
severe weather front on the way. minutes away, potentially, from hitting the town of west, texas, bringing with it severe winds. jennifer delgado is standing by to give us a sense of what they can expect. >> you're right. we are really watching this storm because it's less than an hour away from making its way into west, texas, as well as waco, texas. want to point out right now, winds at 32 miles per hour. the winds are going to be essential, of course, because the fire is not contained. the winds right now coming out of the northwest. once we get this front pushing through, the wind direction is going to be blowing it down towards the southeast. as i show you right now we do have this severe thunderstorm watch in place. a lot of the the storms moving out on it but with this we're going to be looking at frequent lightning as well as hail and thunderstorms coming through with so many people outside, not in shelters, keep in mind first responders are out there as well. they need to take cover when this storm moves through. we're going to track this for
you. as we take it through, here is west, texas, moving towards waco at 6:17. this is why everybody needs to take cover. keep in mind, we're talking less than an hour away. as we go through the future, thursday, 5:00 a.m., by about 7:00 local time, that front will be over towards the east. that means the winds will finally be coming out of the northwest, going in the direction of the southeast. but still, we're going to be looking at rain as we go through the morning hours and the winds gusting potentially up to 35 as we go through the afternoon. and the temperatures are going to be dropping as well. the high temperatures already happened. overnight lows. we're talking dropping into the 30s behind this frontal system. so here is your look for the day. notice by 1:00, still some winds up to 24. this is going to macon tan that fire even more difficult. keep in mind, sun rise at 6:55. so about an hour and a half,
start to see what things look like on the ground a bit better. back over to you. >> jennifer, thank you very much. it's a little bit of a mixed bag. water obviously helpful in fighting fire but it's more helpful to firefighters by wetting down surrounding areas in wildfire situations to control movement. the wind, it all depends on which way it blows. they're going to have to see the intensity of it and the direction. >> and we are seeing pictures of people being treated right now, football field, sports field, open fields. triage right there. people simply laying on the grass. wet don't want them outside when the severe weather rolls in. >> you can see p pictures of what they're dealing with since the fire started. all throughout the night. still ongoing. search and rescue. we're going to take a break. when we come back we will be monitoring the situation there. if you've been watching, it's very fluid. we will get the very latest situation from the ground. ce is great, but i wondered what a customer thought? describe the first time you met. you brought the flex in... as soon as i met fiona and i was describing the problem
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this is cnn breaking news. >> that explosion in west, texas, at a fertilizer plant so powerful it was measured and registered as an earthquake. that's how powerful it was. following a massive fire there, ongoing situation. dozens of people feared dead. hundreds, over 150 people injured, being sent to local hospitals. still much unknown about what's going on in west, texas, as they are trying to get it under control. >> listen to the description on the ground. >> the ball of fire, went up and looked like a nuclear bomb went off. big old mushroom cloud. >> dozens of people here dead perhaps. hundreds more injured, being
treated right now at hospitals and officials concerned about a potentially deadly gas they worry could be circulating in the air. >> back here in boston where we've been live with our continuing coverage, all of the attacks at the boston marathon, two possible suspects, they are focusing on two men seen near the finish line just seconds before the fatal blast. all right. welcome back, everybody, to a special edition of "early start." i'm chris cuomo. >> i'm john berman. we're here in boston where we're covering the aftermath of the bombing at the boston marathon. so much news going on around the country. >> today will be an important day here in boston because the president is coming with the first lady to have interfaith service. part of the healing as the investigation continues. but on this morning, the breaking news that has the most urgency is, of course, what's going on in texas. we've been following it since it started last night. but this morning, still ongoing. >> search and rescue operation
under way in this small town. it is named west, west, texas. it's about 18 miles away from waco, texas. there was this massive explosion at this fertilizer plant last night. so strong it registered as a 2.1 magnitude. authorities say homes leveled, businesses leveled. right now police estimate between 5 and 15 people have died but they may totally clear that these estimates are preliminary. they could grow. they simply have no idea. they won't have an idea until daylight there. >> area hospitals have already seen over 150 people. some children and adults. a handful right now are in critical condition. the good news would be from the ground that they believe they are getting the fire under control. that there is a second tank there that they're worried about exploding. right now they say that risk has decreased somewhat. there's less flow of injuries. again, the search and rescue still ongoing there. the scene itself being treated ad as a crime scene.
we're told, straight precautionary. no reason to believe foul play. >> being treated as a crime scene until they know for sure that it was an industrial accident. right now they're saying that the first responders right now there on the scene, they are still among the missing. three to five firefighters who responded to the first fire which happened just after 7:20. they were on the scene when that second explosion happened about 25 minutes later. >> very big situation being dealt with by a very small community. less than 3,000 people there. they only had three ambulances to their own disposal so they had to call out for help from nearby waco, texas. the help luckily came very quickly. adding the first responders on the scene. they said made a big difference in dealing with the casualties. >> we are waiting a news conference from the mayor of the town of west, texas. his name is tommy muska. we believe he is about to start speaking to us, giving us an update of the situation there. i was speaking to him earlier.
he said it has been a frantic, frantic night. one of the things that's interesting that they do say is at this point, as the night has progressed, they have enough emergency personnel on the ground to help out in is the mayor speaking right now, tommy muska. >> i'm going to give a brief statement on the activities over the last 12 hours. approximately 7:30 the west fertilizer plant was on fire, fully consumed. the west volunteer fire department responded. approximately 7:55, the plant exploded. approximately 50 to 60, five-block area, radius, houses were damaged, heavily damaged. west west haven, located a couple of blocks from the fertilizer plant, was in the process of being evacuated due to the fire when the explosion
occurred. the rest home, nursing home, has evacuated and taken all their patients out to safe locations. all residents in that area have been evacuated and are in a safe location. i do not have an exact number of casualties at this time, or hurt. we took over 160 to a waco hospital, to area hospitals, for treatment. search and rescue teams have been working through the night combing the west west haven as well as the fertilizer plant and also a thor ough check of the neighborhood. that is continuing as we speak. for those who are missing a loved one or need information, we will have a line set up at the west community center.
that's 254-826-4115 at the west community center after 9:00 a.m. we will have another press conference at 4:00. thank you. i ask for your prayers. >> mayor, what do you say -- >> no questions. >> all right. that's the mayor there taking questions now for the media. he's leaving to get back to a very urgent situation. the numbers say about the same. fluid search and rescue ongoing. over 150 people have been treated at local hospitals. not necessarily admitted. also food news. a little bit of more hopeful information for people in the area, nursing home, we seen as being under risk, the mayor said it was evacuated. everybody is safe. however, 50 to 60 homes heavily damaged. >> heavily damaged. >> earlier we heard from officials who said homes leveled and some businesses were simply leveled. and again, this is all happening as a severe weather threat is
coming at this hour with strong winds that could effect the area. we're talking about minutes away. they're talking about gusts upwards of 40 miles an hour. >> they're going to have to see what it is. for some perspective of what the weather could mean, let's go to jennifer delgado. >> thohi there. this is going to be arriving very shortly into the waco, west, texas, area. you can get an idea of yourself. here is that line of showers and thunderstorms. very close to this region. the winds right now gusting at 25 miles per hour. coming out of the south. that means blowing the wind and fume up toward the north. change is going to happen all due to the line of the storms that are now moving out of the severe thunderstorm watch box area, but still, none the less, as that storm makes its way over towards the east, it's going to be bringing with it lightning as well as hail and this is going to be dangerous for those people who are without a home, first responders out there, even
reporters and even standing out there, this line of storms coming through can potentially be dangerous. what we're going to see as we track if this for you. keep in mind we are talking central times. as that line of storm makes its way over towards the east, very close to 6:20 even sooner than that. as we go throughout the day, the winds are going to be the big factor. the winds are going to be gusting at times up to about 35 miles per hour throughout the afternoon. imagine then if you were the firefighters out there trying to contain this fire. this is going to potentially move the direction of the fire as the winds will be coming out of the northwest, blowing the fumes and the smoke down towards the southeast. that is going to be certainly a big concern. and right now, temperatures are in the 70s. as that front pushes through, by tomorrow morning, those overnight lows are going to be just above freezing. now, keep in mind with people not having homes and things like that, that's going to make the situation even worse. john, chris, we are talking sun rise at 6:55. that's going to be the crucial
hour we start to get a better scene of what is happening on the ground. >> so we're going to have two layers s of affect here. what it does in terms of the fire, the moisture and wind, and also, very tough on those first responders to deal with dropping temperatures and all the weather. >> a very fluid situation happening overnight, affecting down in west, texas, right now. so much else going on in the country including here in boston. the aftermath of the terror attack. what has the president been told to this point, how is the white house responding. let's go to brianna keilar right now at the white house. the president has been briefed on this situation right now? >> john, we know the white house is aware and monitoring this. it's very likely that the president was briefed on this. if he wasn't actual lly woken u and told about this, we would expect that certainly by this point he is aware of it. but the white house itself is certainly aware and monitoring
this situation. they are in touch with fema, i'm told by a white house official, and at this point we're obviously awaiting to see if there may be some responses. you know, president obama will be heading this morning to boston for the interfaith memorial service there. he has a number of things on his plate. obviously he's heading out soon. and we're waiting to see any further reaction here from the white house. john? >> brianna keilar, thank you. that service at the cathedral of the holy cross in boston, that 11:00 a.m. eastern time. brianna keilar, our thanks to you. we're going to take a break. when com ba ie back, more from texas. dozens of people may be feared dead. search and rescue is ongoing. they have bad weather coming their way. the battle continues down there. and then live here from boston, we will have the latest on the investigation here into those bombings on monday at the marathon. we'll tell you more about those new pictures that could lead to
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this is cnn breaking news. >> new information in this past hour in this breaking coverage we're doing of the massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in the small text town named west. it is just north of waco. at this time officials believe the 5 to 15 people have been killed. that's a preliminary estimate right now. there could be many more fatalities. they also confirm that as many as five firefighters who
responded to the fire at the plant, as many as five firefighters are missing at this hour and more than 160 people there have been injured. >> you have to remember, the community is sleless than 3,000 people. when they say 50 or 60 of their homes are heavily damaged, that's a big slice of their community. in texas, we're also obviously here live in boston. we have news of what could be a big break in the marathon terror attack. investigators use surveillance video say they have pinpointed two men near the finish line. they are calling them possible suspects. for the latest of what's going on and what we understand of the situation, let's go to susan candiotti who has the latest. >> for days now we've been hearing about how investigators have been poring overall kinds of videos and still photographs looking for any people that they might want to talk to, that might possibly have something to do with what happened, that terrible, terrible terrorist
attack here. now we have word of what we're being told is high interest and a couple of people in particular. now, any videos or still photographs that you're going to see while i'm talking now on the screen are not, repeat, not the images that we're talking about right now. we are not showing images that we are discussing because we've been asked not to by law enforcement, not to possibly jeopardize the investigation. however, i am told by federal law enforcement official with knowledge of this investigation that they're trying to locate two people in particular because of this. number one, because of the timing that they're seen around the finish line, just before the bomb blast went off. the two bombs went off. secondly, it's because of what they are carrying with them. they are carrying, and i've seen the two images, what appears to be a dark-colored backpack and another one, a dark bag -- another bag of some kind. and so that is why authorities
say they have high interest in them and they're sending out a memo and they've sent these images to law enforcement agencies literally around the country and they're asking them, telling them the attached photos are being circulated in an attempt to identify those individuals. now, i am told they don't have the names of these people at this time but they're trying to find them in case they have some information they want to talk to them about, just to see whether they have any -- what reason they had for being there at the minimum. so, chris, we thought we might be hearing more about this during a press briefing that had been scheduled yesterday, as you know, it was scheduled, then it was postponed because of an unrelated event at the courthouse. and then reschedule and then finally canceled. so we'll see later today, chris, whether we will get additional information at this on an official basis from investigators here. back to you. >> all right, susan. best use of time for
investigators is to move the investigation. they can talk to the press whenever they want. thank you. >> obviously as this investigation happens, as they get closer hopefully to finding out who pulled this bomb off, people in this community are already beginning to gather to grieve and to heal. among those attending an interfaith service later this morning, president obama. pamela brown is at boston cathedral. >> good morning to you, john. president obama, first lady michelle obama, expected to arrive here at 11:00 this morning. also in attendance, former governor of massachusetts and former presidential candidate mitt romney who was invited by massachusetts governor. the message this morning will be one of resolve, a shared commonality, the american people with the people of boston. also the focus will be on the victims, those who suffered and those who lost their lives during monday's tragic attack. late yesterday afternoon boston
university officially released the name of the third victim killed. 23-year-old graduate student and chinese national by the name of lulu. she was standing at the finish line with three friends when the bomb went off. one of her friends suffered injuries and taken to the hospital. a search went on social media following the attack and that was followed by a wave of sympathy tuesday after it became apparent that she had been killed. her loss has sent shockwaves throughout the bu campus which has a strong chinese community. here's one what one student who knew her had to say. >> she's just like -- i am a student from china. i am a grad student here. i was really close to that bomb blast. i was like 200 meters away from it. so if i was the one, how my
friends will feel, how my parents will feel. >> we have learned that several bu students have seekd counseling following the loss. there has been an official memorial service tonight at 7:00. again, president obama will be here at 11:00 this morning. he will focus not only on her but the other two victims who lost their lives. the face of this tragedy, people have been lining up very early this morning. it's a long line already couple of blocks down from the cathedral of the holy cross. we can expect this line to continue to build throughout the morning leading up to the president's arrival at 11:00 a.m. >> pamela brown, thank you so much. of course, first come first serve basis here. stay with cnn for the president's arrival and that interfaith service at 11:00 a.m. eastern time.
that going on as we continue to bring you the latest information on this massive explosion in the town of west, texas, at a fertilizer plant. homes leveled, businesses leveled. we'll give you the latest right after this break. [ female announcer ] you walk into your laundry room and it just hits you! that nasty odor coming from your washer. say farewell to the smell with tide washing machine cleaner. it goes straight to the source of the stink to lift odor-causing residues off your washer's drum. tide washing machine cleaner.
we have new information in the past hour in our breaking news coverage of a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in the small texas town of west, just north of waco, texas. at this time, very fluid situation. officials say they do believe they are getting the fire under control. there are estimates of lives lost here that range from 5 to 15. but very early. search and rescue still going on. even though it's a small community, 50 to 60 homes heavily damaged. people unaccounted for. firefighters unaccounted for who came, john, responding to deal with this first fire at about 7:30 last night. massive explosion, so powerful, it registered as an earthquake.
>> people are being treated at a number of local area hospitals. first responders conducting search and rescue operations. it's still dark right there. they are expecting a massive weather front to come in that will complicate things with heavy winds as well. >> had to evacuate the nursing home there. everyone is safe. now the big challenge, weather is coming. could be 30, 35-mile-an-hour winds, precipitation dropping temperatures. unmore for what that means for fighting the fire but definitely will be difficult on the first responders. >> we are covering every development. meanwhile, there is a lot of other news going on. we're following this this morning. mississippi man is under arrest in connection with a ricin scare in the nays's capital. president obama and mississippi senator wicker was intercepted at a mail processing facility after tests indicated the poisonous substance. the president was informed of the situation. >> any time a suspicious powder is located in a mail facility it
is tested. and i would underscore that the mail is screened. the mail sent here is screened and these tests are undertaken at remote sites to mitigate the risk both to those recipients and to the general population. >> reporter: the fbi says results of the additional testing on the envelope could be known later today. texas authorities could file more charge today in the case of three high-profile killings that disgraced former justice of the peace and his wife are in jail. kim williams confessed to her role in the shootings of a prosecutor, a d.a., and his wife. and claimed her husband eric was the trigger man in all three. she's charge with capital murder. eric williams is in jail on a terroristic threat charge but that could be upgraded. investigators say an e-mail threatening more attacks was traced back to him. that certainly was a mystery investigators had been trying to solve for some time now. let's go back now to chris cuomo and john berman in boston. >> ahead on "starting point" we
will cover it all, daylight in west, texas. it will reveal the full amount of the damage caused at a fertilizer plant there. officials fear dozens may have been killed. very preliminary right now. here in boston, investigators say they are now focusing on two possible suspectses in bombings at the boston marathon. in bombings at boston marathon. in bombings at boston marathon. ♪ [ male announcer ] from our nation's networks... ♪
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...and we inspected his brakes for free. -free is good. -free is very good. [ male announcer ] now get 50% off brake pads and shoes at meineke. good morning. i'm john berman. >> i'm chris cuomo here in boston, part of cnn's continuing coverage of the attacks in the boston marathon. >> we're following two major developing stories this morning. first, breaking news overnight. a fertilizer plant explodes in the town of west, texas, leveling surrounding homes. at least 5 to 15 people dead, thousands of people evacuated and rescue crews still searching for the messing. the threat is not over yet as dangerous gas may still be in the air. >> explosion

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